In a move certain to infuriate Democrats who implemented draconian coronavirus lockdown orders starting last spring, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last week granted pardons to those in his state facing monetary fines and other penalties due to violations of pandemic rules put in place by local government, as the Washington Examiner reports.
In making the announcement last week, DeSantis explained, “This action is necessary so that we can recover, have a good transition to normal operations, and also just a recognition that a lot of this stuff was way, way overboard.”
DeSantis and Florida’s Clemency Board voted to implement the pardons, with Democrat gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried casting the only vote to oppose the move, saying, according to Fox Business, “I voted today to uphold our laws, while our so-called pro-law enforcement governor is actively encouraging people to break the law with politically motivated stunts like this.”
Among those heralding the pardons were gym proprietors Mike and Jillian Carnevale who received clemency for their own coronavirus-related infractions last month, but who turned up at the board meeting at which the vote was taken so that they could express their appreciation to DeSantis.
Mike Carnevale, himself arrested three times last year for violating local pandemic rules, stated, “I’m here today to say health and wellness has always been one of our foundational responsibilities to ourselves. It has never been the role of government to be legally and lawfully enforcing and dictating health and wellness. So today is something I am really grateful for.”
The governor has taken a series of steps to unwind remaining coronavirus restrictions within his state, having issued an executive order in May that suspended all local government rules related to COVID-19 and also signing legislation that limits the ability of local authorities to issue new emergency orders and allows him the power to invalidate orders that hinder individual rights, as Orlando CBS affiliate WKMG reported.
DeSantis’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and his willingness to push back on the sort of stringent lockdown measures favored by a large number of Democrat governors across the country is among the reasons his political star has been on the rise over the past year.
Amid growing speculation that DeSantis may mount a run for the White House in 2024, news emerged over the weekend that he narrowly topped former President Donald Trump — who has himself hinted at interest in a second term — in a straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver.
With an impressive 74.12% of respondents indicating their willingness to support the Florida Republican should he seek the Oval Office, there seems to be no limit to DeSantis’ future political fortunes, and there is little doubt that masterful management of his state’s pandemic response is a key reason why.